Militarism and cultures of militarized masculinities create and sustain political decision-making where resorting to the use of force becomes a normalized mode for dispute resolution. Militarism also metastasizes, taking on forms outside of traditional armed conflict.
Critically, militarism serves to uphold and perpetuate structural inequalities that in turn operate to disenfranchise women and girls from public goods, entrench exclusion and marginalization, and create the ingredients for a platform of broader inequalities that increase the potential for violent conflict to occur.” Quote from a UN Women report: Preventing Conflict: Origins of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda
The much publicized and controversial third election that Lesotho had on June 3rd 2017, the third in five years catapulted Lesotho from a relatively unknown state to being an ultimate African stereotype. The need for regional mediation and the deploying of SADC peacekeeping troops twice in twenty years the only other country within SADC being the DRC.
The antagonization of civil society and the diplomatic community , threats of suspension from trade agreements(AGOA), the assassination of two army generals shot for their being perceived as sympathetic to the opposition by their subordinates, an attempted coup d’état resulting in the forced exiling of opposition political leaders and a hyper masculine restless army given an inflated sense of importance by an outgoing LCD/DC administration has resulted in Lesotho being an afro-pessimists dream case study with donors asking after forty years of aid post decolonization where has it all gone? Especially with a population that only hit the two million mark in 2015.
For a country completely landlocked by a wealthy neighbour such as South Africa the biggest economy in Southern Africa, the third biggest economy in Africa and a BRICS member the poverty levels in the country are astounding. Lesotho has the second highest HIV rate in the world, ranking at 167 out of 188 least developed countries, with unemployment rates at thirty two percent with youth making more than half of the unemployment rate, if one was to compare Lesotho to other small states, such as Rwanda for example ,whereby society had to be rebuilt from the ground up within twenty three years Rwanda has averaged a eight percent growth rate with a population of 10.5million whilst Lesotho averaged between zero-one percent in spite of it being relatively peaceful i.e. not going into explicit conflict.
The common sources for derision in Africa such as ethnicity and religion aren’t there, with Basotho being the only ethnic group so tribalism cannot be blamed and Lesotho also has a Christian majority.
So what is the source of all this anarchy and chaos? It’s a shamefully simplistic conclusion, Lesotho has never had a politically self actualized government and therefore can never claim to have experienced a golden era that most countries post decolonization can point to or extenuating circumstance that prompt large scale societal change such as an Arab Spring. The election of ABC Tom Thabane was met with cheers and mass celebrations with PM Tom Thabane being compared to Nelson Mandela , a problematic comparison but accurate in that he was and is the face of the catalyst to change and the conclusion of an utterly apathetic era of governance. With the merriment all but gone now, a startling revelation has been how underrepresented women are in the new government with only five out of 27 new Cabinet appointments being women, of the minimum SADC quota of thirty percent of government positions being filled by women, the current government is at 18%.
The focus of the incumbent government is on reforms with the depoliticisation of the army being the major focus, a regurgitation of old government promises, yet in the security sector reform discussions gender mainstreaming is neither prioritized nor mentioned. Gender inclusive early warning mechanisms and the training of military women and police officers in conflict resolution as well as the promotion of women to high ranking positions within the army or police is found to be effective in preventing conflict. In the DRC 525 mediators in three provinces affected by armed conflict have trained the military and police on sexual violence and for the first time the DRC has promoted women generals in the military and police.
The militarization of Lesotho society had permeated all levels of society but especially the security sector, a Lesotho Mounted Police Service officer ,Police Constable Mokalekale Kheteng had been missing for more than a year, when a tip off pointed towards an unmarked grave in which his body was exhumed, there haven’t been reports of Officer Kheteng having been politicized nor sympathetic to the opposition , which is now the incumbent government, but what may have led to his demise was being objective enough to point to certain misgivings or shortcomings in an LCD/DC stronghold of Hlotse, Leribe where he was stationed.
The reason for the mentioning of this case was that on the day of his disappearance a female police officer Constable Mabohlokoa Makotoko saw Constable Kheteng being loaded onto the back of a police van by his fellow male police officers, she only came forward with this information after the LCD/DC government had collapsed to contest an unfair dismissal on March 2017 a month after the no confidence vote which ousted LCD/DC PM Pakalitha Mosisili in February 2017.
In Sierra Leone and Kosovo it was found by investigators that women in those contexts actually had valuable information about the accumulation of weapons and planned attacks but had no means of reporting or sharing this information.
There is certainly not an underrepresentation of women within the Lesotho security sector, from 2005-2012 there was the appointment of a woman as Commissioner of Police Malejaka Letooane.
The current Minister of Police is a woman Mampho Mokhele, along with the current Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Mahali Phamotse, with women at these centres of power they are in a very influential position to insist on gender mainstreaming in security sector reform, however in a coalition government party politics consistently trump societal justice as evidenced by Minister Phamotse having crossed the bench from the LCD/DC(previous administration) to the AD(breakaway party of the LCD/DC administration) to be in coalition with the ABC(current PMs political party) a delightful mouthful of acronyms I know .
The reform processes is intended to start in November 2017 with the arrival of SADC peacekeeping troops slightly over 1000 as reinforcement and a buffer as investigations into the army offences commence.
In a Lesotho Times July 2017 interview with PM Thabane he proposed the possible nullifying of the army, which is a 3000 strong force. The question is what would happen to 3000 soldiers? Do they get absorbed into the police as a paramilitary unit? Will they be afforded a transitional assistance package needed to support existing standards of living?
With already high unemployment rates, and the army as an employer how will they be absorbed into the formal economy?
Basotho are now tasked with having to create for themselves values and institutions that are accountable but effective in a world that is generally deprived of certainty. I would hope that the de-fanging or maybe restructuring of the army would be gender sensitive, not for tokenism but for the very valid promotion of women who wish to be in the security sector.